It’s all very well being wise after the event, but you need to be able to anticipate and prevent problematic situations from arising when driving. This is largely why the hazard perception element of the driving test was introduced in 2002, where candidates are presented with a series of video clips in which they have to identify two developing hazards.
Making this part of your driving routine keeps you aware of the potential hazards you may encounter in everyday situations. Is a parked car about to move off? Or is someone about to get out of it and cross the road? Does the lack of pavement on a country road mean you may have to give way to pedestrians? Is it possible that you may see a horse rider round the next bend? Being constantly alert to what is going on around you and what may lie ahead is essential. Driving needs your full concentration.
Not too close
You should always leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it suddenly slows down or stops. In general, you should allow at least a two-second gap on a good road surface when the weather conditons are fine. This has to be at least doubled on wet roads. Be aware that stopping distances can be up to ten times longer on icy roads.
Is it safe to overtake?
Before you consider overtaking another vehicle, you need to consider whether it is safe and legal to do so. You mustn’t attempt this if: you would have to cross or straddle double white lines with a solid line nearest to you; the vehicle in front is the nearest to a pedestrian crossing; you would have to enter a bus lane during its hours of operation; you can see a ‘no overtaking’ sign.
You should also avoid overtaking on a corner or bend, a hump bridge or the brow of a hill, or where you may come into conflict with other road users. If you are sure none of these things apply, you still need to be confident that the road ahead is sufficiently clear and that no one else is beginning to overtake you. Remember to use your mirrors and signals correctly, never simply follow a vehicle ahead that is overtaking, take extra care when overtaking large vehicles, and leave plenty of space when passing vulnerable road users such as cyclists.
Check your speed
Although you must never exceed the speed limit for the road you are on, it’s also not safe to drive at this maximum limit irrespective of conditions. You should always reduce your speed when the road ahead presents hazards, such as bends; you are sharing it with pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders; in poor weather conditions and at night.
You can’t kid yourself that exceeding the speed limit isn’t dangerous, as government research has shown that at 40mph, 85% of people hit by vehicles die, compared to 20% at 30mph and 5% at 20mph. Driving hesitantly and too slowly is also potentially dangerous, as it can cause confusion and problems for other road users. Set out with the conviction that you will drive safely and confidently, at the appropriate speed for the road and current conditions, and with consideration for those around you.